The Serbian Ministry of Agriculture is planning to unveil draft amendments and supplements to the Law on Agricultural Land with the aim of limiting the sale of such land to foreigners before 1 September, when the market is to be liberalised. EurActiv.rs reports.

And while a competent minister is announcing a public debate on the amendments to the controversial law, agricultural economists are calling for the postponement and limiting of the sale of arable land to foreign buyers, and European officials are saying that selling the land should not be feared.

Serbia is the only country that has taken on the obligation of liberalising the agricultural land market and permitting its sale to foreigners prior to joining the European Union.

Other countries had that obligation after they joined the EU, whereas most even had a “good” transition period of a few years. Croatia, for example, managed to get seven and Poland as many as 12 years.

The Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) between the EU and Serbia envisages that Serbia will within four years of the agreement’s coming into force enable EU citizens to obtain the right of ownership of real estate, including agricultural land.

The deadline started on 1 September 2013, with the coming into effect of the SAA, meaning that Serbia should liberalise the market in 2017.

On 3 July, Minister of Agriculture Branislav Nedimović announced that the draft amendments and supplements to the Law on Agricultural Land would be done the following week and that public debates on the subject would be held in the next 10 to 15 days, after which the draft amendments would be sent to the parliament.

“This has to find its way to the MPs because Sept. 1 is drawing near. We will resolve this and there will be no problems,” said Nedimović on 3 July and recalled that Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, presenting the program and objectives of her cabinet to parliament, said that those amendments would be a task of the government that would be resolved in its first 60 days.

However, the draft amendments are still being worked on and, according to unofficial information, foreigners will be able to buy arable land once they prove they have spent seven years in Serbia, whereas a legal entity and newly founded company must prior to the purchase be registered at the Business Registers Agency of Serbia for five years.